Descendants of North Vancouver founding family confront story of how slavery built community – BC News

The names in his family tree read like a road atlas of North Vancouver – Heywood, Lonsdale, Pemberton, Fell. It was once a source of pride.

But a recent study of Guy Heywood’s family history reveals a dark and forgotten truth. The early settlement of the North Shore, its continued development, and the formation of the city of North Vancouver all stemmed from a family fortune amassed in the transatlantic slave trade.

“It’s sobering,” Heywood said. “Racism is quite deep in our [Canadian] the story too, but it was a surprising connection.

The family tree search became a retirement project for Heywood’s father, Bob, who was a North Vancouver RCMP detachment commander and later a city councillor. They already knew about the more recent generations of the family and the role they had played in the early settlements of North Vancouver.

To clarify family and financial lineage, it is helpful to work backwards.

The City of North Vancouver was carved out of the greater North Vancouver District in 1907, with its borders drawn largely around the landholdings of Lonsdale Estates and the North Vancouver Land Improvement Co.

Lonsdale Estates was jointly owned by James Pemberton-Fell and Henry Heywood-Lonsdale (1864-1930). He was the son of Arthur Pemberton Heywood-Lonsdale (1835-1897) who led the syndicate of investors that financed the Moodyville Sawmill, the first industrial development on the North Shore with a settler community built around it. When the sawmill went bankrupt, Henry Heywood-Lonsdale consolidated debt and land into Lonsdale Estates, with plans to develop the land.

Arthur Pemberton Heywood-Lonsdale inherited his £1.25 million fortune from his uncle John Pemberton Heywood the Younger (1803-1877), who worked in the Manchester family bank. His father was John Pemberton Heywood the Elder (1756 -1835), son of Arthur Heywood and nephew of Benjamin Heywood, who had founded the bank in 1790.

The Heywood family lived on estates around Liverpool and Manchester.

Before going into banking, Arthur and Benjamin Heywood owned at least two ships used in the slave trade, a historical fact already documented by British scholars. The Heywood brothers’ ships, Phoebe and Prince of Wales, sailed between West Africa and the West Indies. Phoebe transported 280 slaves from the Gold Coast in 1753, records show, and the Heywood brothers invested in 133 voyages through the late 1780s.

Generations have passed and the money has been “washed away” by the banks, Heywood said, but the moral culpability behind the capital remains.

“I try to do everything I can to get people to question the way things are and whether they should always stay that way,” he said.

The human cost of the Heywood family fortune should never be lost amid numbers and dates, said June Francis, associate professor of marketing and business at Simon Fraser University and president of the Hogan’s Alley Society in Vancouver. .

“This number represents absolute, unspeakable, indescribable inhumanity – to think of a person who becomes chattel and what that entitles them to. … The fact that people survived this is really the biggest mystery to me,” she said. “They calculated that it was cheaper to get new slaves than to breed slaves, so they would make slaves to death.”

Guy Heywood is descended from Benjamin and Arthur’s brother, Nathanial (1726-1808), who was in the military and does not appear to have been involved in the family business. Heywood’s grandfather arrived from England in the 1920s and settled in Abbotsford to raise chickens.

It was around 2016 that Heywood realized the connection between North Vancouver and slavery, though he was never quite sure what to make of the information.

Afterwards, Heywood said a series of events awoke his consciousness and he felt compelled to speak.

A 2019 New York Times series on the history and legacy of slavery got Heywood thinking about the broader implications.

“The thesis is that in reality the American economy gets its boots from slavery,” he said. “This kind of awareness shows how deeply rooted racism is not just in culture, but in the underpinnings of the economy.”

The 2020 murder of George Floyd spurred a broader consideration of anti-black racism.

Heywood said he couldn’t help but feel the contrast with his partner Christene Best’s family’s contributions to black history in Canada. His ancestors joined the first black settlement on the East Coast in 1787.

His grandmother Carrie Best was arrested in 1943 for serving in the white section of a segregationist theater in Nova Scotia. Later, she founded the New Glasgow Clarion, the first black-owned newspaper in the province. When Viola Desmond was arrested for doing the same in 1946, the Clarion broke the story and challenged racial segregation in theater. Carrie Best was subsequently appointed to the Order of Canada. Desmond’s face is on the $10 bill.

In 1967, Best’s grandfather, Isaac Phills, was the first black man to be invested into the Order of Canada. He was a World War I veteran who sent his seven children to college, despite terrible adversity.

And Best’s father, James Calbert Best, founded and led the Civil Service Association, became the highest-ranking black person in the federal public service, and was the first black Canadian to represent the country as high commissioner to Canada’s mission in Trinidad and Tobago.

Francis said the revelation that one institution in modern Canada is the legacy of slavery didn’t surprise her, because there are so many more.

“Slave collateral provided a large part of the mortgage industry’s initial financial beginnings,” she said. “It was the asset base of much of the North American economy.”

When Empire Loyalists arrived in Canada during the American Revolution, many brought their slaves and fortunes with them. Slavery was not abolished in the British Empire, including the colonies of what is now Canada, until 1834.

The wealth accumulated through slavery, both direct and indirect, and still circulating in the economy, is estimated by scholars to be in the trillions of dollars, Francis said.

The Heywood family’s bank was later taken over by other banks, which in turn were taken over by Barclays Bank in the 1960s. Today, Barclays faces reparations lawsuits for slavery.

The lingering injustice is that once established, North Vancouver continued to be a place that excluded black people, even though it would not exist as we know it today without their enslavement.

There are developments on the North Shore that come with legal clauses specifically prohibiting people of Asian, African, or Indian descent from owning property there.

When the family of late track and field star Harry Jerome moved to North Vancouver in 1951, neighbors staged a protest to keep them out. Jerome’s children were pelted with stones and racist insults on their way to school.

According to the 2016 census, less than 1% of residents in the city of North Vancouver identified as black.

“I lived in North Van and chose to leave because I didn’t think it was a place where I could reasonably raise a black family or a mixed-race family,” Francis said.

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